How and Why Race Talk and Whistle-Dog Politics Differ: The Local and the Colorblind State of Anti-Immigration Politics in Alabama

Authors: Nicole Trujillo-Pagan*, Wayne State University
Topics: Immigration/Transnationalism, Political Geography
Keywords: Discourse, anti-immigration, HB56, populist radical right, Latino/as
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 6:20 PM
Room: Galvez, , Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Alabama’s HB 56 is an important example of a subfederal immigration policy that revealed political fault lines developing at the local and state levels surrounding immigration. Debates surrounding the bill’s passage reflect how not only how state legislators articulated the concerns of their constituencies, but also how new local actors were enrolled in a political discourse that spanned the local-national scales.

This paper looks at two important concepts that understand discourse as a symbolic negotiation in the racialization of Latino/a immigrants. Sociologists study “race talk” to reconcile racial inequality in the post-civil rights era. Political scientists consider “whistle-dog” politics emerge during Richard Nixon’s administration to advocate racial segregation without ever explicitly talking about race.

This paper relies on two forms of data. First, textual analysis of legislative debates surrounding HB 56 identified themes and dimensions that framed the bill’s passage. Second, content analysis of newspaper articles during and after the bill’s passage identifies how a variety of local actors responded to the bill.

The paper argues both “whistle-dog politics” and race talk were used in legislative debates and newspaper articles. By outlining dominant themes that emerged in public and legislative debates, the paper contributes to mapping variables in the analysis of the populist radical right politics.

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